My Bloody Valentine (1981)

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On the surface this is just another 80s slasher movie but the texture is quite individual. It’s set in a small mining town in Canada. Director George Mihalka shot on location, in an actual mining town (and an actual mine) and cast local Canadian actors who weren’t just generic good-looking teens. These are working-class faces, working-class body types. The guys wear glasses or have big beards, some of them are good looking, others are just gloriously plain. The same goes for the girls. They all look and sound like who they are meant to. It’s no mistake My Bloody Valentine often gets labelled as the Deer Hunter of slasher flicks. The human element is incredibly specific to Canada, which I really love.

So what about the scary shit? Well, Harry Warden is no Michael Myers but in terms of horror iconography you can do far worse than a murderous miner with a pick-axe. Just as a visual, that thing is incredibly strong and instantly recognisable to this film. This also might share the title for second best holiday-themed horror film of all time (along with another Canadian horror classic, Black Christmas). Valentine’s Day is so ripe for a slasher riff and the film doesn’t miss a beat. You’ve got dismembered hearts in heart shaped chocolate boxes, love triangles between characters, a Valentine’s Day dance and the whole thing takes place in a town called (wait for it) Valentine Bluffs! Is that one of the coolest fictional town names or what?

My Bloody Valentine is such a complete little bubble. To judge it on plot or dialogue alone, it might not seem all that special, but the way it’s dressed – the surface pleasures – are very unconventional. It’s a B-movie cast like a 70s small-town-on-the-outskirts masterpiece. Imagine if a psychotic miner suddenly started terrorising the characters in Five Easy Pieces or The Last Picture Showand you’re halfway there. The physicality of the special effects (I watched the uncut version) and the authenticity of the locations, actors and dialect are also essential to the overall impact. This one has really stayed with me. Apparently it’s Quentin Tarantino’s favourite slasher movie of all time too. Oh…and as far as horror movies with end-credits theme songs go, “The Ballad of Harry Warden” is the fucking pinnacle.

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